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It’s 1982, the Cold War is raging, and Keri Russell is posing as a married suburban mom as a cover for her real identity; a badass Soviet secret agent in the FX drama The Americans. Things get even juicier in the second season, beginning tonight at 10, as Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings faces exposure threats from not only the FBI guy neighbor but moles, KGB leaks and her own increasingly suspicious teenage daughter. So naturally, she lies, schemes and seduces her targets. We asked her about a character that’s the furthest thing from Felicity—and her upcoming Apes flick.

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“You’re usually using the sexuality, at least in the spy end of it, to get something. There is kind of a freedom in that.”

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How would you characterize Elizabeth as this season begins?
More exposed. I find the power and steely strength that Elizabeth has is very grounding. I enjoy the vulnerability and sexuality of her and I’m continually interested in the mining and uncovering of the relationships. It’s so interesting to me that it can be tender and loyal and devious and thrilling all at once.

She has to share her husband with his pretend wife, Martha the mole.
It definitely plays a part this season in a way that it did not before because of her emotional engagement. Elizabeth is now re-engaged with her husband and family in way that she was not before. Not only is she physically shaken from the stabbing at the end of last season, she’s more vulnerable emotionally because of this new engagement and it’s very scary to her and that puts her very off center. So it’s heartbreaking for her when he has to go [to Martha] sometimes when she needs him. There are some interesting scenes that come up about midway through that will answer some questions.

Married or not, she’s still using sex as an espionage tool.
The good thing about the sexuality in the show, at least where I’m coming at it from, is it’s not this big sweeping romantic movie where you have to be so in love and so beautiful and so sexy. You’re usually using the sexuality, at least in the spy end of it, to get something. There is kind of a freedom in that.

When did you find time to do Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
During my break. God, I wanted a break, but when someone you adore and love and respect so much like Matt Reeves calls and says ‘Come and do this with me….’  I said, ‘Matt I’m so tired.’  And he said, ‘The first month will be hard but the next month and a half will be easy, you’ll get all these days off.’ But it was all fucking hard! It was cold and it rained all day and there were so many times when I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ But working with Andy Serkis was incredible, the locations we shot in, it’s huge. It’s really kind of mythic.